Community Advocates, Entergy Employees Seek Sustained Funding to Help Low-Income Customers in Need Pay Energy Costs

Aug 02, 2011, 08:00 ET from Entergy Corporation

NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 2, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Entergy Corporation employees and advocates for low-income residents are in Washington, D.C., this week to ask Congress to reject proposed cuts to a federal program that helps the poor pay energy costs, arguing the move could reduce assistance to tens of thousands of families in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas by more than $250 million.

Entergy employees and nonprofit group representatives will be among advocates from across the country participating today in the National Fuel Funds Network's Washington Action Day for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Entergy employees are there as part of their ongoing commitment to help low-income customers. LIHEAP is America's primary tool to help pay energy costs for the elderly, the disabled and working-poor families with young children.

Current budget proposals call for cutting LIHEAP funding in half, from the current $5.1 billion to $2.5 billion.

"LIHEAP is such an important program for our friends and neighbors who are truly in need," said Patty Riddlebarger, director of social corporate responsibility for Entergy. "We understand Congress must address deficit spending, but our elected leaders also must understand the growing need for assistance being seen by our community partners."

Hundreds of Arkansas residents ignored 100 degree heat and long lines to stand in the mid-July sun for hours in the hope of getting some help to pay utility bills through LIHEAP.

More than 400,000 people were added to the official poverty rolls between 2008 and 2009 in the four states served by Entergy utilities. In addition, pressure on the working poor continues to grow with the cost of energy, food and gasoline rising faster than wages.

"The recession may be over in the minds of some economists, but it's still going strong for those living paycheck to paycheck. This is not the time to cut the safety net for people struggling to survive," Riddlebarger added. "We're asking Congress to set aside $5.1 billion for LIHEAP this fiscal year. If we don't keep funding at least level with last year, tens of thousands of families will be left without help or forced to choose between buying food and medicine or paying their utility bills.

"If LIHEAP funding is roughly cut in half as proposed, it will translate into funding cuts of some two-thirds or more for states like Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi and as much as three-fourths for Texas," she said. "Those are disproportionate cuts for a region with the nation's highest poverty rate. It's a combined loss of $250 million for the four states."

Entergy Corporation is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, and it is the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.7 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of more than $10 billion and approximately 15,000 employees.

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SOURCE Entergy Corporation